Pogo says, “We Have Met the Enemy; and the Enemy is Us”
Our last post discussed how manipulation begins, stating that we are “all born manipulative” because as infants we do not have a sufficiently developed brain or body to accomplish filling our needs on our own. That means we all need an “agent,” a person (parent or caretaker) who allows us to use his or her energy to meet our needs. Parents are prepared to offer this to their infants. Children as young as two years old press to “do it myself,” but as stated previously, they are not yet able to meet needs on their own. But by age 3-4, a child can meet many of his needs. It is from this point that increasingly manipulation-free behavior and living can develop. As stated previously, that child needs help from parents to keep making the transition. In the last installment, I left you with the question about why children don’t receive the help they need. When we see how many people habitually manipulate in their adult years, we realize how little help children receive for outgrowing manipulation.
From Chapter 3:
A 3–4-year-old child can ask for a drink of water, open the refrigerator to get food, pull a blanket upon their body if they’re cold. The 3–4-year-old has a sufficiently developed body and brain to do basic life tasks for themselves. This is the crucial time when humans have the opportunity to start outgrowing manipulation. If a 3–4-year-old child receives help in becoming more self-sufficient, manipulative behaviors begin to fall away. And when they continue to receive help as their body and brain mature more during childhood, those manipulative behaviors can drop away, to be replaced by independent and interdependent actions.
Why 3-4-Year-Olds Don’t Get Help for Self-Sufficiency
You’d think if parents know that 3–4-year-old children can make amazing leaps toward maturity if only they get help to become more self-sufficient, then parents would do everything they can to support that self-sufficiency. Yet, most 3–4-year-olds are not encouraged to take as much independent action as they can. Why is this?
1. Parents don’t know that 3–4-year-old children need this help
2. Parents think it is too much to ask of 3–4-year-old children to take as much responsibility for themselves as they can.
3. Parents, themselves, have not received this help. Though in a grown-up body, they are still emotionally at the 3-4 age themselves, believing they must manipulate to get their needs met. This means they must also stay connected to others, constantly. Otherwise, deep down, they fear they will die. Therefore, they do not want to assist their children to become mature and separate from their parents. A huge number of parents fall into this category.
Children need help in being independent, which means using their own energy to be effective in their world.
What happens when children don’t receive this help?
From Chapter 3:
A childhood filled with personal decision-making, including allowing the consequences of decisions to fall on the child, helps children to become their own “agent,” filling their own needs and eventually graduating as mature people, sharing “wants” with others, rather than continuing to be needy.
By contrast, a child who does not receive this help grows up physically—so they look like an adult—while emotionally they remain 3-4 years of age. I call such a person a Lifestyle Manipulator. This is because the way they live with others is the same as the way a 3–4-year-old child lives and behaves. Later, we’ll talk about how to identify a Lifestyle Manipulator. Being able to identify such an individual helps us safeguard ourselves against their manipulative behaviors.
If you are a parent of children still at home, consider helping your child(ren) take responsibility, assume the consequences of their choices, get help in making good choices, and feeling the great feeling of slowly getting in charge of filling their own needs. You’ll be helping them to have more satisfying and enjoyable adult lives!
Have you ever questioned the behaviors of someone you thought was “adult?” Maybe you said this: “I wouldn’t expect that behavior from an adult!” Absent this explanation of manipulation, we probably didn’t realize how accurate our statement was! Such a person is not an adult. They look adult but are emotionally a 3-4-year-old child.
Telling such a person they’re manipulating usually brings anger, upset, and even vindictiveness. Unfortunately recognizing your manipulativeness is a very difficult thing to observe or know about oneself. One reason it’s so difficult to face is that seeing it causes the person to realize he is separate from others (which is terrifying). It also means that person needs to change his entire way of living (which is incredibly difficult, particularly when you don’t know how to do it!).
To grow up, people who become Lifestyle Manipulators must be able to see that the ways in which they are behaving don’t work well. Then, they must decide to change. And then they have the hard work of growing themselves up. It’s a long, hard process. We don’t usually undertake this process unless we’re feeling a lot of pain. And because we also have the option of just moving on to another person whose energy we can drain, very many people don’t make these changes.
Next month we’ll take a closer look at What Blocks and Supports Us in Ending Manipulation and where to find the power to do it.
Connect with Ilene Dillon on The Wellness Universe and walk away feeling better!
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